Pave an Unstoppable Path to Breakthrough Success

Most organizations don’t try to create breakthroughs because they don’t believe such important improvements are possible. With the right preparations you’ll be more likely to succeed and your confidence in your future success will soar.

How can we use the right preparations to replace our skepticism about breakthroughs with success?

Let me put this subject in context: It’s an important lesson for those who want to make lots of 2,000 percent solutions (ways of accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources).

The steps for creating a 2,000 percent solution are listed here:

1. Understand the importance of measuring performance.

2. Decide what to measure.

3. Estimate the future best practice.

4. Implement to exceed the future best practice.

5. Identify the ideal best practice.

6. Pursue the ideal best practice.

7. Select the right people and provide the right motivation.

8. Repeat the first seven steps.

This article looks at preparations for accomplishing step seven, select the right people and provide the right motivation.

Don’t Ask Permission, Ask Forgiveness Later (If Necessary)

Sometimes the need for change is so daunting that the organization’s leaders won’t be able to cope. When that circumstance occurs, consider saving the organization by using what I call “stealth” change. Rather than beginning by selling the people at the top and making great promises and proclamations, keep it all hush-hush. Recruit a few highly admired people who have the talent to lead the change by creating models of the new ways on the quiet. After setting the standard, loan talented teams who can install the better ways to a few more highly admired people who are in trouble with making their budgets. Ask your bailed-out leaders to visit the rest of the organization to explain the successful change and to welcome visitors who want to learn more. Within six months, such stealthy projects can often run circles around formally authorized teams with tons of resources.

Launch Your Team into Escape Orbit

Before finalizing your choice of team members and leader, let those you are considering know that there’s risk involved. Team members will be betting their careers with this assignment. Team members and leaders who perform well will likely be asked to solve another problem or pursue a different opportunity — that’s their career reward. If they don’t execute the changes, they won’t have jobs to go back to … but you will help them locate a new position in another organization.

As you can imagine, knowing that you cannot retreat to your old job is unsettling, even demoralizing, information. People who have routinely exceeded the future best practices to approach the ideal best practice report that this up-or-out approach is necessary. Team members who like a challenge will thrive in this environment. But it’s not for everyone. You are creating personal burning platforms that will make team members realize that the project’s success is essential. Employ only those who are willing to accept the personal danger from this risk.

What about financial rewards? Incentives for a special project should in no way mirror the organization’s existing financial incentives. Achieving success should pay off in far larger than normal bonuses for team members. Pick incentive sizes that will excite exceptional and appropriate excellence. Many organizations choose incentives that are too large. Larger financial incentives quickly fail to add greater excitement. Instead, financial incentives that are too large encourage people to play it safe to be sure to get a minimum reward of the overwhelming largesse.


You need to change some of the ways you manage your organization now, locate your change leaders, prepare leaders for the change tasks, and encourage change leaders to be effective and enthusiastic.

What to Stop Doing

You have some ineffective methods. Those have to stop. You also need to stop doing things that take up time you need for the change projects. Consider your answers to the following questions:

• What are the habits that will lead your organization in the wrong direction as you pursue the desired changes?

• How can you encourage people to abandon those habits?

• What incentives do you provide now for those habits that need to be removed?

• What messages need to stop being sent?

Find the Best Change Leaders

The following questions will help you identify change leaders:

• Who has the best track record in your organization for leading the types of changes you desire?

• Who else could be an effective contributor to the change process through new ideas, communicating the change, or organizing the change effort?

• Who are the people in your organization who are most excited about the potential to make these changes?

• How well do the candidates’ values match the organization’s values?

Prepare the Change Leaders

Use these questions to enhance the effectiveness of your change leaders:

• What information do the change leaders lack that can be readily provided?

• How can that information be shared quickly and accurately?

• What skills or training will they need to be effective?

• How can this training be timed to help them when it will be most relevant to the tasks at hand?

• What resources will they need?

• How can the right resources be provided in a timely way?

Activate the Change Leaders

It’s not enough to have the talent and desire. You also need to be properly focused. Each of us responds differently to rewards and recognition. For each of your team members and leaders consider the answers to this question:

• What combination of fulfilling desires for recognition, reward, and feedback is right for each person to help him or her reach the highest level of performance?

In answering this question, remember that creativity researchers have found that rewards for being creative often backfire, while rewards for accomplishing a predefined implementation task usually work well. The best way to begin is by talking with each person about what motivates her or him for the tasks that need doing.

Copyright 2007 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved